When kids think of math, they usually picture worksheets and flashcards. But math doesn’t have to be dull! These active math games get kids up and moving, using their whole bodies to learn facts and skills. Lots of these ideas can be adapted to suit a variety of math concepts, so choose a few to try out with your math students soon.
1. Toss beanbags to learn place value
Label bins with place values like ones, tens, and hundreds. Kids toss beanbags into the bins, then count them and see what number they’ve created.
2. Create a life-size number line
Number lines are wonderful for all sorts of math games and activities. Make one big enough for kids to stand and jump around on using sidewalk chalk (or painter’s tape indoors). You’ll use it over and over again.
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3. Draw a colorful math facts garden
It’s amazing how many math games you can play with sidewalk chalk! For this one, kids draw a basic flower with 10 numbered petals, as shown. Then they write a number to multiply (or add or subtract) by in the middle and fill in the petals with the correct answers.
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4. Hit the target and graph
You can teach graphing in lots of ways, so why not make it active? Students throw balls onto a target, graphing and analyzing their throws as they go.
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5. Head out on a plot graph scavenger hunt
Create a map of your school, playground, or other area using graph paper (or even better, have kids help you do it). Then choose plot points for them to visit to find notes or small prizes. They’ll feel like real treasure hunters!
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6. Roll the dice to count and move
Get practice with low number counting and addition using action dice. Write activities like jump, clap, or stomp on a small wooden block, then roll it along with a pair of dice. Kids add them up (or subtract if you prefer) and complete the activity the number of times shown.
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7. Whack a ball to subtract
You know your elementary math students are going to love this! Build your own whack-a-mole 10 frame with a shoebox and ping pong balls. Then, have kids whack the balls to practice their subtraction facts. So fun!
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8. Make a splash with water balloons
You’re going to need to be willing to get a little wet for this one, but kids simply adore math games (or any games!) with water balloons. Fill and label balloons numbered 1 through 20 (or whatever numbers you’re working on). Draw the numbers in a big circle on the playground. Then have a student choose a balloon, find the matching number, and head off to make a splash!
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9. Tell time on a giant clock
Draw a giant clock face with hours and minutes on the playground with sidewalk chalk. Choose two students to be the hour and minute hands, then call out a time and send them out to become the clock. Add more complicated elements by having them add to or subtract from the initial time too. (“Now it’s 23 minutes later!”)
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10. Measure your frog jumps
Have your students hop like frogs, leap like gazelles, or jump like a kangaroo. Then, pull out the ruler or measuring tape so they can measure the distances they’ve covered.
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11. Jump up your math facts practice
Lay out a grid like the one shown that has the answers to whatever set of math flashcards you’re currently working with. (This teacher used masking tape; you could also do sidewalk chalk on the playground.) Two players face off, one on each side of the board. Show the flashcard, and kids race to be the first to jump to the correct square with both feet inside the lines. Get all the rules at the link below.
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12. Run a flashcard race
Tape a series of flashcards to the floor and challenge kids to see who can correctly make their way from start to finish the fastest. They can call out the answers or write them down, but they have to get it right before they move on. Kids can race side by side or work independently to beat their own best time.
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13. Catch a math beach ball
Beach balls are so much fun in the classroom. Scribble numbers all over one with a Sharpie, then toss it to a student. Wherever their thumbs land, they add (or subtract, or multiply) those two numbers together before tossing the ball to the next student.
Learn more: Saddle Up For Second Grade/Beach Ball Math
14. Do a number dance
Kids who love “Dance Dance Revolution” will get into this one. Make a number mat for each student like the ones shown. Flash an equation with an answer between 10 and 99 on the screen. Kids figure out the answer and jump to put their left foot on the correct tens place, right foot on the ones. They’ll be dancing and spinning as they learn!
Learn more: Number Loving
15. Groove with angles
Teach kids about transversals and the angles they create with some fun dance moves! Get the details for “Dance Dance Transversal” at the link below.
Learn more: Communicating Mathematically
About the Author
Jill Staake is a Contributing Editor with WeAreTeachers. She has a degree in Secondary English Education and has taught in middle and high school classrooms. She's also done training and curriculum design for a financial institution and been a science museum educator. She currently lives in Tampa, Florida where she often works on her back porch while taking frequent breaks for bird-watching and gardening.
15 Active Math Games and Activities for Kids Who Love To Move